Although the EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation has been in force for several years, in practice compliance in relation to health claims has not been required pending approval of the main tranche of ‘general function’ health claims. The Regulation approving 222 general function claims, and banning the remainder, came into force on Friday 14 December. From now on, health claims will be illegal in any labelling or advertising associated with food and drink products unless the claim is made within the approval conditions on that main list or in one of a handful of regulations approving a small number of indvidual claims.

We can expect the authorities in each Member State now to start practical enforcement action – indeed in the last couple of months Eversheds has seen increasing activity in the UK in relation to debatable health claims, on the part of both trading standards authorities and the Advertising Standards Authority.

Many current claims are plainly not allowed under the NHCR. In other cases there is room for doubt and manufacturers and retailers may resist attempts by the authorities to stop them making such claims. Some case law from the courts and, in the UK, the ASA, is likely to develop over the next two or three years. Any business which has become relaxed about health claims on the basis that nobody seems to be enforcing the rules needs to take into account the fact that the rules are from this week much more likely to be actively policed.